Italian icon

Italian icon

Published: October 26, 2011 (Issue # 1680)


Jude Law in ‘Alfie’ is just one of many actors to have ridden a Vespa on the silver screen.

This week Italy is once again invading the Venice of the North, showing St. Petersburgers the very best of Italian lifestyle.

An exhibit of iconic Vespa vehicles organized by the Piaggio Foundation in cooperation with the Multimedia Center of Cinematography is on show at the Astoria Hotel through Oct. 30 as part of the “Week of Tuscany.”

“Today, after more than sixty years, the Vespa is a worldwide symbol of Italian creativity and a unique example of ‘immortality’ in the history of industrial design,” writes Piaggio Group Chairman and CEO Roberto Colaninno in the introduction to the exhibition catalogue.

“The Vespa is no longer just a product of the world of transport: It is the story of a phenomenal symbol of global mores, and the images exhibited at the Piaggio Museum offer a fascinating journey through films, advertisements, photographs and posters, in the company of a legend without equals.”

The Vespa made its movie debut in 1950, four years after its market launch, in the Italian film “Sunday in August,” and became a worldwide status symbol in “Roman Holiday” (1953), with the celebrated sequence in which Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck weave their way through the Rome traffic on a Vespa 125. In addition to movie posters and stills from countless films, the exhibition presents the Vespa models that played leading roles in the films, covering sixty years of history, styles and a changing way of life.

During that time, countless actors and actresses have sat on Vespas, which have appeared or even taken a leading role in countless films.

“Examples include Nanni Moretti’s ‘Dear Diary’ (1993), in which the main character spends an entire episode – entitled, naturally enough, ‘In Vespa’ – on the saddle of a 150 Sprint,” said Pier Marco De Santi, senior lecturer in the history of cinema at the University of Pisa and art director of the Festival of European Cinema of Viareggio, whose research generated the idea of creating the exhibition.

“Or ‘Alfie’ (2004), directed by Charles Shyer, which sees Jude Law out on the streets of Manhattan on a white and blue Vespa; or Sydney Pollack’s ‘The Interpreter’ (2005), in which Nicole Kidman’s favored means of transport around New York is a yellow Vespa,” he added.

The photographs in “The Vespa and the Movies” exhibition illustrate the long list of international movie stars seen on the world’s most famous scooter through the years.

The exhibition was displayed in March and April this year in Turin, at the “Art of Being Italian” festival to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the founding of the United Italian Republic, and afterwards at the opening of The Cannes Festival. It also made an appearance in Taormina during the prestigious film award ceremony “I Nastri d’Argento (The Silver Ribbon),” is devoted to the style icon “Made in Italy”, to the legendary Vespa motor scooter, which became a leader in the world of Italian cinema for generations.

The newest model of the scooter — the Vespa PX — will be presented at the exhibition.

Visitors to the Vespa show who find their appetite for Italian lifestyle and cinematography whetted can also enjoy an Italian Cinema festival, which will take place next door to the Vespa exhibit at the Astoria’s sister hotel, the Angleterre. On Nov. 10, 16 and 22, the “Legendary Cinema of Italy” program will present movies by Federico Fellini (“La notte” and “La strada”) and Michelangelo Antonioni’s “L’Eclipse.”

The Italian Film Festival at the Angleterre Hotel starts Oct. 26 and ends Nov. 22. Movies start at 8 p.m.

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